Friday, January 13, 2012

Anathema - Falling Deeper

Falling Deeper
Kscope Music

When Liverpool (U.K.) act Anathema announced plans to record acoustic reinterpretations of older tracks back in 2008, I can’t say that I was all that enthused. After all, the whole unplugged concept had been done so many times before, and I really couldn’t see the point of Anathema heading down a path that had well and truly been travelled down so many times before. But to my complete surprise, not only the resulting album ‘Hindsight’ completely amazed me, but it showed that the band could actually do something new with the whole unplugged format, and in the process present fans with something entirely new and different.
It’s been three years since then, and after releasing their absolutely stunning 2010 effort ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ (Which took the honour of best album of the year from yours truly), the five piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanagh, guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Danny Cavanagh, vocalist Lee Douglas, bassist Jamie Cavanagh and drummer John Douglas) have returned with a rather quick follow-up release in ‘Falling Deeper’. And as expected, it’s something a little unexpected, and every bit as brilliant as you would expect it to be. In a lot of ways, ‘Falling Deeper’ is a sequel to ‘Hindsight’, but completely different. What I mean is that while ‘Hindsight’ was filled with acoustic reinterpretations of older songs, this latest effort sees the band revising some of their past efforts, and reinterpreting them in orchestral form with The London Session Orchestra.
Again, I was sceptical of whether the band could not only do justice to their older material, but also whether they could do something that hadn’t been done before. But after listening to the album, I can only say that I should never have doubted the band for one moment.
‘Crestfallen’ (The title track from the band’s debut E.P. in 1992) provides an interesting start to the album, with this version cut down quite significantly from the original by some seven minutes. Having said that, the piano intro is still present, and the instrumentation that follows still retains the same melodies of the original, only heavily orchestrated to tie in with the band’s more recent sound heard on ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ (Including the vocals, which weave in and out in an almost dream-like manner), as opposed to the doom/death metal sound of old. Some may find this reworked effort a little too different, but newcomers will enjoy this track to no end.
‘Sleep In Sanity’ (From the band’s debut full-length effort ‘Serenades’ from 1993), much like the opener, is radically reworked to tie in with their current musical direction, all the while retaining the core elements of the original. But despite this, the song sounds entirely fresh and different, and could otherwise be mistaken for something entirely new if you weren’t paying close attention.
‘Kingdom’ (From their 1995 E.P. ‘Pentecost III’) is quite stirring, with the strings generally rising to prominence around the middle fading gently away around the tail end, while the instrumentals ‘They Die’ (From ‘Crestfallen’), ‘J’ai Fait Une Promesse’ (Which translates to ‘I Made A Promise’, and comes from ‘Serenades’) and ‘We, The Gods’ (From ‘Pentecost III’) take on more atmospheric and ambient tones, which ties in perfectly with the band’s last album.
One of the real highlights on the album is ‘Everwake’ (From ‘Crestfallen’), which features a beautiful guest vocal performance from Anneke Van Giersbergen (Ex-The Gathering), while ‘Alone’ (Lifted from 1995’s ‘The Silent Enigma’) is stretched well beyond its original running length to really emphasise the band’s use of acoustic guitars. Finishing up the album is ‘Sunset Of Age’ (Again, from ‘The Silent Enigma’), which is where the band have undoubtedly saved the best for last. Quite simply, this song is an absolute masterpiece here in its revised form, and showcases just how the band and the orchestra can really work together to make something quite special.
It would seem that at this point in their career, Anathema simply can’t set a foot wrong. Each and every one of the band’s releases has seen the band take chances and push the sound towards completely new directions, which has meant that the band have always had something new to offer every time (Which is not something that can be said for a lot of bands).
After the magnificence of ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’, I was curious to see where the band would go next, and whether they could actually do anything that rivalled the album. ‘Falling Deeper’ puts paid to any doubt, because while it’s certainly different and unexpected, it’s also another magnificent masterpiece.

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© Justin Donnelly